SUSAN DENTZER: The president arrived today in Botswana, a country that he saluted as one of Africa's robust democracies. He especially praised Botswana's president, Festus Mogae, for spearheading this small nation's effort to fight the AIDS pandemic.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Botswana, as a result of the president's leadership, has really been on the forefront of dealing with this serious problem by, first and foremost, admitting that there is a problem, and then by working to put a strategy in place to prevent and treat and to provide help for those who suffer.
SUSAN DENTZER: Nearly two in five adults in this country of 1.6 million people are infected with HIV. That's the highest proportion in any country in the world. The total number infected here is estimated at 330,000. That's small by the standards of far-larger countries like South Africa, where an estimated five million are living with HIV. But the prevalence of infection still poses a nearly intolerable burden here.
Botswana is also prosperous by African standards, with per capita gross domestic product about ten times that of South Africa. So, recently, it became the first African country to adopt the goal of making so-called anti-retroviral drugs available to all citizens, who need them.
Now several thousand Botswanans with HIV or AIDS are undergoing such treatment. That's still a fraction of those who need it, however, so a push is underway to expand treatment further. President Mogae noted today that Botswana's AIDS-fighting efforts have benefited from a unique public-private partnership.
PRESIDENT FESTUS MOGAE, Botswana: We are collaborating with our own private sector, the foundations in the United States -- the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the MERCK corporation foundation -- for providing us with anti-retrovirals, and also with assistance for mounting of our prevention campaign.
SUSAN DENTZER: Under that partnership, the Gates Foundation and MERCK are providing $100 million over five years for treatment and prevention initiatives. Pharmaceutical giant MERCK has also donated two anti-retroviral drugs that it produces, Stocrin and Crixivan.
SUSAN DENTZER: All these efforts appear to be paying off, for example, in a slowdown of the rate of new infections here. That makes Botswana one of several bright spots in sub-Saharan Africa, where about 30 million are living with HIV or AIDS.
To strengthen their AIDS-fighting efforts, 14 nations in Africa and the Caribbean have been targeted for funding through the AIDS initiative that President Bush unveiled earlier this year. It's still uncertain how much money congress will appropriate for that effort. But yesterday, during his visit to South Africa, President Bush said the U.S. Was eager to hear from African nations about how best to put the money to work.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We need a common-sense strategy to make sure that the money is well-spent. And the definition of well-spent means that lives are saved, which means good treatment programs, good prevention programs, good programs to develop health infrastructures in remote parts of different countries, so that we can actually get anti-retroviral drugs to those who need help.
SUSAN DENTZER: Among the issues members of the Bush Administration raised with the government of South African President Thabo Mbeki, is expanding access to anti-retroviral drugs. Unlike Botswana, South Africa hasn't yet committed to getting drugs to all, who need them. The president's next stop is Uganda. That's another nation that, like Botswana, has made substantial inroads into fighting AIDS.